When someone asks you to do something at work and he or she says 'thanks!' it almost seems like it is rhetorical but I still feel like a response is required in order to appear professional. What is the appropriate way to respond to someone asking you to do something in the workplace and following the ask immediately with "thanks!' ?
"No problem" Would be an appropriate response here. The use of the word "Thanks" is a social nicety to show appreciation, and also perhaps a passive aggressive way of telling you to do something.
If you are able to complete the request, my answer, or something similar is a polite/normal way to respond to this whilst at the same time acknowledging that you understand the request and are able to complete
If you are unable to complete the request it would be best to reply in a similar fashion. Don't bluntly say "no", but something like "I may struggle with this because...."
Personally, I am the sort of person who finds the preemptive "thanks" intolerable.
"Can you blah blah? Thanks!"
It is someone giving me an order, but doesn't have the honesty to frame it as an order. They don't give me the opportunity to manage my own time. They don't give me the opportunity to clarify requirements.
This is one of the worst possible things you can say to me.
How I respond will vary depending on the person, my mood, what the task is...
A simple "no problem", "sure thing", "by when?" or even "okay" is a fine response if the request is straight-forward, the person asking doesn't usually ask like this, the person asking is someone I need to be abundantly polite to, or I just don't feel like causing trouble at the moment.
Otherwise, I've gone with "no", "sorry, but I've got XYZ on my plate...", "I'm not your lackey/go-fer", "blah blah? a half dozen questions about requirements, possibly insinuating that the request is idiotic". The second answer is the most common (and recommended), as it's not terribly offensive and helps start a conversation about prioritization. It declines, but provides your boss with the opportunity to change their mind, overrule the priority, or otherwise get your roadblock out of your way.
The others are less advised, but I will use them to dissuade the preemptive thanks, increase my morale, and provide unambiguous dissatisfaction to my boss. And really, I cannot stand working somewhere that I just execute work mindlessly, so I care very little if such responses are taken poorly.
A thanks like this has different meanings from a boss than from others, and more importantly when it is uttered. Compare:
Boss: Can you [whatever] by Tuesday?
You: Yes I can.
Boss: Great, thanks.
Boss: I need to you [whatever] by Tuesday, thanks.
In the first case, you are being thanked for taking on the task or agreeing to it or whatever just happened. Though you have yet to complete the task, you have done something that merits a thankyou. It's not necessary to reply "you're welcome" or "no problem" or really anything more than a nod that you heard. You can if you want, and if you are actually super excited to [whatever] then a reply like "Happy to! Thanks for the opportunity!" or "No problem, I know this is important and I'm going to do whatever it takes to be done by Tuesday!" can be very appropriate.
The second one is entirely different. It carries with it the blatant statement "I don't need to wait for your answer; I know you will do as I ask." From a boss this is a little rude. From a peer, it's rude. From a subordinate, it's almost intolerable. I had a subordinate who used to ask me to do things and stick "p&t" on the end, short for "please and thankyou" and eventually I had to explain it was very impolite to do that and was upsetting me. I know people who do this to their children; I would recommend for yourself that you never do it to anyone. But if someone is doing it to you, I suggest:
- for a boss, grin and bear it. They can tell you what to do without waiting for you to agree, and perhaps they think they are being polite. Don't reply to the thanks, but do reply to the first part - provide the reply they are suggesting they didn't need to wait for.
- for a peer, a gentle "you can thank me when I've agreed to do it" once or twice should probably take care of it. With a grin if it's in person.
- for a subordinate, the same phrase, "thank me when I've agreed to do it" is helpful or perhaps "when I ask something with please, I wait for an answer before I thank the person. You might not like my answer, after all." And then a significant pause to let them think about things they might not like.
But in the overall scheme of things, if your main workplace problem is a little too much thankyou from your boss, like could be a lot worse.
I would have to say whatever you've come accustomed to saying in these situations will come across as the most natural and sincere. You should be fine unless you've received a lot of feedback in your lifetime that you typically lack social awareness and make inappropriate comments.
There are cultural differences and you may find your office is more like what you have experienced in the past or different in some way. There are probably examples in the office to see how others do it. Learn to study your environment to find out what is acceptable. In the mean time, just say "you're welcome" if you can't think of anything else.